Sunday, January 14, 2018

I, Toni

If you’ve followed my ramblings over the years, you know I am something of a Tonya Harding Super Fan. She is Woodhaven’s most proximate celebrity. When we moved here 13 years ago, I started meeting people who knew her or had had various interactions with her. I started hearing stories and gossip and tales. I was ridiculously intrigued.

My closest personal encounter with Tonya (so far…I still have hope) was spotting her in a local grocery store a few years ago. She was next to the orange juice. I was so star-struck, all I could do was stare and then run to the baby food aisle to breathlessly call a friend in Massachusetts whom I knew would share my glee.

I have several friends who have met Tonya. One friend, Gigi, sees Tonya quite often because of the nature of her work. Gigi is kind enough to occasionally throw fun facts my way about the infamous skater’s current life. I lap them up like catnip.

Last week, Gigi asked me if I would like to join her and a small group of her coworkers on a movie date to see Tonya’s biopic “I, Tonya.” A small group of people WHO KNOW TONYA! I cleared my schedule and practically did a triple Lutz in anticipation. Today couldn’t come soon enough!

The original plan was to see the film in one of those swanky movie theaters with reclining chairs and adult beverages. But it was quickly determined that all the shows for today were selling out FAST. Clearly, I am not the only nosy neighbor who wants to sip a nice Cabernet while peeking into the life of our local Olympian-turned-tabloid-fodder.

A quick redirect and flying fingers on keyboards nabbed tickets at a less exciting theater (read: no recliners and only Coke products). We all agreed to meet 30 minutes early so we could assure seats together.

When I arrived in the parking lot, I quickly changed into my hockey jersey. I have never worn it out in public before; I could not imagine a better time for it to make its debut on my shoulders.

A friend of mine is an avid hockey player and one of his local teams was called The Hardings. When David discovered my fascination with Tonya, he very kindly offered to part with one of his jerseys. I display it proudly on a hook in our laundry room. I see it every time I come into the house from the garage and at least three loads every week. A few benevolent visitors have kindly inquired about it, allowing me to enthusiastically tell the story of how I came to possess a rather random but totally amazing Tonya Harding souvenir.

Back to the movie theater.

After amusing the ticket-taker with my jersey, we filed into the theater expecting to have to scope out 7 seats in a group. Instead, there were not even 7 seats filled. Obviously, my county has discerned that Tonya is best enjoyed with a cocktail. The movie I mean. Or maybe not?

People slowly trickled in but the theater was only about one-third full by the time the copious coming attractions gratefully ended. Most folks looked to be in their 50s and older; clearly, we were the ones that were there and not distracted by homework or Power Rangers when it all went down in 1994.

As we watched preview after preview after bloody preview, I started to get a little concerned about what type of flick “I, Tonya” was going to be. You know how previews are usually in the same genre as the coming attraction? Well, every preview preceding “I, Tonya” involved blood, violence, lying, drama, intensity. And now that I type that, never mind. The previews nailed it.

My official review of “I, Tonya”: 6.0 from the Woodhaven judge

Even if I didn’t sort of stalk Tonya as a hobby, I would have loved this movie. It is compelling, entertaining, disturbing, familiar, and new. I already know I need to see it again. And the soundtrack ROCKS! I shall be ordering the CD soon... because that's how we rolled in the '90s.

When I first heard about it, I assumed the film was going to be campy and gossipy and something of a parody. Basically the movie version of the stage production “Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera” that Rob and I saw in Portland about 10 years ago. (Did I mention Super Fan?)

I was quite surprised when I learned instead that there is Oscar buzz about the movie, particularly the two central actresses playing Tonya and her parakeet-wearing-mother. People are actually taking the movie – and Tonya – seriously. To which Tonya might add “…for once in my freakin’ life!”

The acting was indeed impressive. The likenesses of everyone involved except Tonya was uncanny. Having watched every recent Tonya interview possible (Super Fan!), Margot Robbie certainly has Tonya’s mannerisms down but her accent is a little weird. (Given that Margot is Australian and trying to do Redneck American, I shouldn’t fault her too much.) And honestly, Tonya is prettier than Margot’s version of her. But otherwise, the hair, the nails, the wardrobe…it was like watching all that news footage from the mid-90s all over again.

There were some authentic laugh-out-loud moments in the movie. Laughter that lingered and made me miss the next few lines. Sometimes the humor was intended; sometimes it was from the absurdity of the situations and people in Tonya’s life.

Despite reading countless books and articles and such over the years (Super Fan!), I did learn a few tidbits. Such as the fun fact that the real plan – which Tonya was in on – was just to send threatening notes to Nancy. And that the buffoony bodyguard was actually the source of the death threat Tonya received a couple weeks prior to the infamous knee whack. The inept bodyguard faked the death threat because he was somehow “thinking four steps ahead.” Yeah, don’t try to figure it…or him…out.

As I watched the familiar story unfold, I was struck by how straight-out-of-a-Hollywood-movie the whole situation was. I truly think if someone had pitched Tonya’s story as fiction, it would have been panned for being ridiculously unbelievable. I also found myself…and overheard a few others in the theater…rooting for Tonya.

Her story as she tells is it heartbreaking. Her childhood, her mother, her husband were all painful to watch. Tonya became a singularly sympathetic character as her truth was told. By the end of it, I just wanted to give her a hug.

At one point, in documentary-interview style, Tonya explains how her treatment by the media after “The Incident” was like being abused all over again. And, talking directly to the camera, she asserts that all of us who are intrigued by the calamity of her life are her abusers as well.

I gotta admit, I wasn’t so proud of my hockey jersey at that moment.

As we left the theater, I asked Gigi and her coworker who knows Tonya best if the movie changed their opinions at all. For the most part, the answer was no.

Gigi said she knew Tonya had had a rough childhood but didn’t realize it was as troubled as the movie depicted. We wondered together why other adults in Tonya’s life didn’t bring in CPS or other authorities to protect her.

Gigi’s coworker simply said, “All I can say is Tonya has always been very nice to me.”

I bet that would make Tonya happy. Very freakin’ happy.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

50 hours below freezing

It seemed like such a good idea in October. My grandma had just died and the invitation for my cousin’s wedding arrived in our mailbox. Emma and I shared the same grandma. I am the only cousin she and her older sister have. Chronologically, my cousins could be my kids…a fun fact that sort of creeps all three of us out. Because of the age and geographical gaps, I’ve never been very close to my cousins. So, in honor of Grandma, I thought maybe I should try to change that.

And that’s how Rob and I ended up freezing our delicate West Coast extremities in Omaha, Nebraska the past two days. The past two days of temperatures that had a minus sign in front of them. The past two days that even the sturdy Midwesterners admitted were stupidly cold.

When we sent in our RSVP card, Rob and I anticipated the wedding would be perhaps the coolest one EVER, it being in Nebraska on New Years Eve. Nevertheless, I was excited to wear a favorite sleeveless party dress with a somewhat plunging neckline and kicky heels.

As the wedding date began to appear in the weather forecasts, my festive wardrobe changed with each update. It was exhausting.

Dresses became skirts became pants. No sleeves became shawls became two layers. Nylons became tights became Cuddl Duds.

I finally packed Option #5 – a pant suit with long underwear, boots, and a turtleneck. Not quite the slinky New Year’s Eve outfit I had originally envisioned but at least I didn’t end up with frostbite. And bonus: I didn’t have to shave my legs and thus had a little extra insulation. Sorry, Rob.

Our prep for the trip was quite impressive. Kohl’s and Fred Meyer were very pleased with our travel plans and hysteria. It seemed every day the week before we left, Rob and I were out in the stores scooping up provisions in a frozen panic. Long underwear, neoprene face masks, gloves, snow boots, wool socks, flannel shirts, dressy sweaters, and fashion booties with enough room to allow for the aforementioned wool socks.

Did I mention we were in Nebraska for a total of 50 hours? Less than one of which was spent outdoors?

Ahhh, transplanted Californians. Aren’t we adorable?

Taken in our kitchen.  Probably the best way to
approach my cooking if not Nebraska winters.

Truth be told, I had actually experienced ridiculously cold weather before. I survived two winters in Butte, Montana when I was a kid where temps got in the negative 30s. I remember being blown around by snow and wind while trying to walk between my mom’s car and the school bus. My school didn’t have windows so as to keep the heat in. We had to change apartments the first winter when the ceiling in my bedroom starting leaking and caving in from the weight of the snow on the roof (who builds flat roofs in Montana?!?). So yeah, that.

But all my cold training ended when I was 8, save for a week-long business trip to Minneapolis in January at my last job. My boss said it was “training at the headquarters.” It was clear by the third day of white-outs and frozen eyelashes that it was really more of a corporate hazing.

Rob’s cold air experience was mostly limited to occasional winter trips to Reno/Lake Tahoe. Honestly, he was freaking out a little more than I was as we watched Emma’s wedding forecast plummet. Nevertheless, both Rob and I were mostly clueless about what we were about to subject ourselves to as we and our two suitcases trekked to the frigid heartland.

As we exited the Omaha airport car rental shuttle, we coughed and gasped at the literally freezing air. We were swaddled in wool and flannel and hi-tech microfibers. Our breath left contrails as we penguined our way to our heavy-duty AWD super big SUV that was unfortunately white. That much harder to find us in a snow drift. Dang it!

As we made our way around parking lots and in and out of buildings, I could sense Rob was a bit disappointed.

“It’s not as cold as I was expecting,” he moped under his fuzzy hat with ear flaps.

“When the wind picks up it will be worse,” I offered hoping to lift his spirits.

Meanwhile, I noticed that all the cars in Nebraska are the same cemety gray color from all the road salt. The cars are filthy and few license plates are readable.

Floors in buildings are also dirty with that same grayish white film. As are the cuffs of most pants, shoes, and purses if you are clueless enough to place them on the floor of a restaurant.

When I apologized to the Hertz guy for all the salty footprints on the floormats in our rental car, he laughed almost as hard as when we told him the car made a scary grinding noise when we started it up both mornings.

“We call that a ‘running start,’” he said as his ski-capped head bobbed backwards with laughter. Although I was sincerely pleased to amuse the Nebraskan with our fish-out-of-frozen-water cluelessness, I knew I had the last laugh with my ticket to balmy Portland-in-the-positive-40s in my hand.

Determined to feel COLD and truly experience the bracing effects of negative digits air, Rob and I adventuresomely (you might have a different adjective) decided to walk to lunch on Sunday. There was a Taco John’s about a quarter-mile from our hotel. It was bright and sunny and the wind seemed manageable and well, we had all that gear from Kohl’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

About one-tenth of a mile in, I started to wonder if my foundation could cover frostbite on my cheekbones. I also concluded that Isotoner must be a West Coast brand because my fingers were turning to ice cubes in my new fleecey Thermal Something Or Other totally inadequate gloves. Rob started to question our walking wisdom a few steps later as he realized his nose hair was frozen. By that time, though, we were all in and had Potato Oles (spicy tater tots) in our sights as rewards.

I'm pretty sure the fact we stopped outside
to take a selfie pegged us as out-of-towners.
At least the laughter from one passing motorist
would suggest as much.

I will note here that the entire time we were in Nebraska, I did not see a single person walking outside for leisure or goal-driven step tracking (4,343 for the day!). And I wonder why people kept asking where we were from?

When we arrived at the wedding venue, we were pleased to find parking tucked in the corner of two buildings, protected from the wind. We were preparing to layer up for the 50-foot walk to the door when we observed locals barely throwing coats on and merely walking quickly to the door.

Looking at each other with shrugs, we left two layers in the car as well as my snow boots and we tried to assimilate. Nevertheless, the nice lady tending bar asked us if we were from California.

Perk of being a Youth Group leader:  awesome
cat scarf for Christmas.  It was PURRFECT!
(I had to.  Sorry, not sorry)

The wedding was lovely and I had a great time even if I didn’t get to be slinky. We made it safely back to our hotel in time to watch the people in New York celebrate the arrival of 2018. Having noted our car’s thermometer at -15, we laughed smugly at the revelers “braving” 2 degrees. Two POSITIVE degrees.

Glistening with arrogance, Rob and I then decided it was time for one last adventure. We checked some nearby weather stations. -13 with a wind-chill of -20.

Dressed only in sweatpants, t-shirts, and slippers, we giggled down to the hotel’s lobby. Two employees were at the desk as I got my phone ready to record.

“We don’t live here and we don’t expect to ever be in temperatures this cold again,” I explained. “So we are heading outside to see what it really feels like.”

“You aren’t gonna like it!” the young gal warned through an incredulous smile.

38 seconds later, we were coughing our way back inside. The gal was literally doubled over in laughter as she asked us how it was.

“OH MY GOD! COLD!!!!!” I shivered as we beelined for the elevator.

There’s a good chance she’s still talking about us.

We hung out at my aunt’s house for a couple of hours the next day before heading to the airport. My cousin, who has lived in Nebraska for 22 of her 26 years, answered the door wearing a sun dress and bare feet. She eventually added a sweatshirt as I lounged in my two layers of flannel, fleece-lined jeans, wool socks, and synthetic fur-lined snow boots.

Ready to finally head home to sensible weather, Rob and I got into our rental car to find the water in my half-empty bottle had frozen. In just two hours in the car in the driveway. We interpreted it as another clear sign from Mother Nature that despite our now impressive array of cold weather gear, we shall never visit such silly temperatures again.

God and family willing.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Fifty is the new Half-Century

It came! It came! It finally came!

Truly no sarcasm here. I have been eagerly anticipating this envelope for MONTHS! With just a month to go until my eligibility is officially official, the ever-efficient seniors with Real Possibilities are on the ball.

Rob has been getting these envelopes for a few years now. He has refused their quarterly pleas to join their 50+ club and their tantalizing offers of a free duffle bag and a magazine subscription. Something about not agreeing with their lobbying efforts and what exactly will his dues pay for blah blah blah.

Me, I’m all about the discounts. So many discounts! And not just on the first Tuesday of every month (I'm looking at you, Walgreens)!

And that magazine? I’ve seen an issue now and then in my doctor’s office. It’s a pretty interesting read addressing relevant topics like the best Medicare Advantage plans and how to fall without breaking a hip. They also interview people I’ve actually heard of like Michael J. Fox and Carol Burnett. Unlike People magazine whose subscription I abandoned about five years ago. Who exactly is Millie Bobby Brown? And truly, until she got engaged I had never heard of this Meghan Markle gal.

Is my silver hair showing?

So sign me up, AARP! You are my people! And thanks for offering a “family” subscription so I can annoy Rob with his own personalized card free of charge! Those discounts, man. They are AWESOME!

So yeah, I think I am ready to turn 50 in exactly one month. I’ve been practicing saying that age in conversation whenever possible, trying it on and seeing if anyone…especially me…gasps in shock. So far all air intake has been boringly normal.

We will see how I feel in a month, but right now I am excited to jump into the next decade. I’ve loved my 40s so I am hoping my 50s will bring even more of that wonderful, hard-earned peace that comes with starting to see patterns in life and people, in not being as shocked by situations, in having more patience to let life reveal itself, and in using my aging body parts as a legitimate excuse to just chill at home in my recliner instead of having to explain introversion.

I do sort of wonder if ditching the hair dye a year ago has helped me mentally prepare for this society-imposed milestone. A year ago I decided it was OK to look my age…or at least not take bold steps to conceal it. Now, in a month there will be no hiding the number of rings around this tree because I shall be sporting these:

The internet is a glorious thing.

I was grateful to find the blue shirt. Many similar versions proclaimed “All Original Parts.” I have scars and MRIs to prove that ain’t true. I especially like that I can wear that shirt well past next year.

The white shirt bears explanation, unless you knew me in my nifty adolescence.

As teens are wont to do, somewhere in high school I decided to adopt my own little catch phrase. It was the era of “Where’s the beef?” and “Whatchoo talkin’ about Willis?” and “I’m Gumby, dammit!” so I wanted to be uniquely like everyone else.

I eventually landed on “Oh, nifty!” I used it instead of the more timely “tubular” or “rad.” I liked its vintage, wholesome vibe. Given my straight-and-narrow approach to the pressures of high school, a grandmotherly buzzword seemed fitting to complete my All Nerd All the Time image.

Naturally, a sunny personalized California license plate followed. Because, well, Marin County. The O NIFTY-mobile was on the roll!

I slowly grew out of my catch phrase, and my license plate was eventually exchanged for one supporting Yosemite. But when Rob recently pulled “Oh nifty I’m fifty” outta nowhere when I was musing about milestone t-shirt ideas, I knew my teen motto needed to be resurrected.

It took some doing, including purchasing the font replicating what is used on California license plates (it’s called Penitentiary Gothic. Not kidding.). But thanks to Google and Zazzle, I already have my outfit chosen for January 23, 2018.

Bring it on, 50! I’m ready for you!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Across the silver finish line

According to my calendar, one year ago today I made a momentous decision. Well, at least a weirdly life-changing one. Yes, one year ago I did this for the very last time:

I threw out my Hair Coloring robe about a half hour later.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the layers of Garnier Truffle #50 to fade away, grow out, and get cut off. But I knew I wanted to be naturally me before my 50th birthday and wanted to give myself plenty of time to get there.

Now, with almost exactly two months to go before I hit the Big Five Oh, I have met my goal with lots of time to spare (goal-oriented much?). It actually only took about 4 months to ditch the fake hair color. Three cheers for hair that grows fast and having no fear in wearing it super short!

Given my silver streak speed, the past 8 months have been spent adjusting to the new reflection in the mirror. It’s honestly been a lot easier than I anticipated.

These days, when I look at photos of myself from the last 5 years or so, all I see is a Darth Vader helmet of hair. Despite what my friend's 80-year-old mother continues to insist (she's my last remaining veeerrry vocal critic), my boxed color was too dark and too much of a contrast with my middle-aged complexion. I had no idea! I also look like I am trying too hard in those Truffled pictures; there’s a little bit of a discomfort or edge or fear (of roots showing or of being found out…either one).

Taken one year ago today as my official "Before" photo.
Golly, I look rather panicked don't I?

Much to my relief, I quite like the new multi-toned silver hat I’m wearing now. I like the mix of bright white to dark brown (in the back) swirling around in a chaotic yet coordinated blend. It looks much more interesting than anything all those chemicals ever produced. And as a result, I think I look generally more relaxed even despite the insane life stress of the past several months.

Today, one year later. 
New hair, new glasses, new lipstick, better lighting.

Despite being happy with the color, I have struggled a bit. I’m still trying to figure out the style. Although I surprisingly really enjoyed the super short pixie (boy hair is ridiculously easy to manage), I tried to grow out my hair. Both Rob and I had hopeful anticipation of the long waves of my grade school years.

4th grade mass-o-hair

I lasted 7 months. Turns out I just can’t handle long hair anymore. Sorry, Rob.

My growing locks were driving me nuts when I vainly had to worry about my hairstyle in the wind. And my hair was so floppy and heavy, I felt like a sheepdog was sleeping on my head. When the waves started doing rip curls, I knew I was done. Chop chop.

I’m still not “there” yet with my eventual style but I think I’m getting close. Maybe in time for my half-century birthday.

I have been disappointed not to be offered more senior discounts. It was looking very promising there in the beginning, with two discounts in two months. Yay Walgreens and Fred Meyer!! But that has been it. Boo! I haven’t been bold enough to ask for any discounts yet. Somehow, I keep thinking I need to wait until I’m at least in the right decade. Two more months, two more months.

I have noticed that I am more noticeable now. It’s a little disconcerting since I prefer to sort of blend into the scenery. Instead, now with my shiny silver head, people with their own silver keep smiling at me, saying hi, striking up conversations in grocery stores and airports and such. Apparently I’m safe? Or maybe they figure I’m old enough to remember when strangers used to talk nicely to each other. Either way, I have to say that seniors are quite friendly and welcoming. I’m digging being in their club.

I have also noticed men in their 30s seem to stare at me. Not with any romantic interest, just with curiosity. I have no idea why, other than perhaps they are trying to figure out how old I am.

In my Truffle days, people typically assumed I was in my late 30s (bless them). Now with my white hair, I’m thinking maybe my hair and my face don’t compute?

Interestingly, in every hospital I visited this year (and truly, that is not a statistic I really want to repeat), nurses spontaneously start talking to me about my skin. One even asked about what products I use. People never mentioned my skin when I had Truffle hair. I’m guessing my face does not look like it should have white hair all around it. Which is actually super fun. I love making people wonder.

Overall, hair-wise, the past year has been more enjoyable, more enlightening, and easier than I anticipated. Honestly, I sort of wish it had taken longer to completely transition to silver. It was unexpectedly exciting to see the natural roots grow in and push the fake color out. I actually quite liked the anticipation of not knowing where my color was going to end up.

I have no regrets about making this frivolously momentous change, other than waiting as long as I did to do it. It would have been fun to see the transition reveal itself naturally…or at least from about age 44 or 45. But I wasn’t ready then. Now, though, I am absolutely ready to embrace my 50s as naturally and as authentically as I can muster, my silver head held high with anticipation and no fear.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

October 14, 2017, 8:01pm

“Follow the light and travel safely.”

I said these words to my world-traveler grandma last Saturday night after I told her I loved her and kissed her waxy, unresponsive cheek for the last time. I hadn’t planned to say those words and I’m still not entirely sure where they came from. But within 30 minutes, she was gone.

I had arrived at the Sacramento hospital almost exactly one week earlier to the hour. Grandma had had a stroke four days prior as she was meeting with an electrician to discuss repairs on a rental property.

Yes, my 92-year-old grandma was still working as a real estate agent with five more years left on the license she renewed near her 90th birthday. I still remember how she almost contained her confusion and disdain 15 years ago when I told her Rob and I were retiring before our 40th birthdays. Although “tired” often described Grandma, “retired” never, ever would.

Classic Working Grandma pose

Two days after I arrived at Grandma’s bedside, my dad and his sister made the profoundly difficult yet profoundly clear decision to take their mother off life support. Her pain, discomfort, and frustration were obvious. Although she could not make a sound, Grandma’s eyes screamed for relief from the hell she was trapped in.

That morning, before the decision was made, I arrived in ICU to find Grandma resting alone. My parents had not yet arrived for the day and my aunt was meeting with a doctor in another area of the hospital.

I went to Grandma’s right side – the side that was still moving occasionally – and held her hand as I said hello. She squeezed my hand in response. Although Grandma had been moving her right leg and her right arm and hand for several days, it wasn’t always clear that the movements were voluntary. Every once in awhile she could move her extremities on command but those moments were fleeting.

But this moment was not.

Sensing something was different, I asked Grandma a few yes-no questions, repeated them, and asked them in different ways to confirm she actually was communicating with me via her hand squeezing.

When I was certain we were talking, I embraced this extraordinary gift with everything I had.

I thanked Grandma again for her example, her legacy, her lessons. I thanked her again for inviting me to accompany her to Istanbul while I was in college. I told her again how amazing it was to hear all those guests at her 90th birthday party speak about what an honorable, trustworthy, integrity-fueled businesswoman she was and how I loved bragging that she was my grandma.

And then I told her that her important documents had been found and her wishes were known. Through a series of pointed, painfully real questions that I never thought I would ask another human being, Grandma gave her family permission…if not a direct order…to let her go.

For the next five days we waited. Sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently. Sometimes through tears, sometimes through blank stares of numbness. Sometimes bathed in laughter of stories, sometimes drenched in exhaustion and confusion.

For days…which really felt like months…I had been asking God to please let Grandma pass in a whisper. Just a simple last breath. No pain, no struggle, no sound. Just one last breath. And all glory to God, that is exactly how she left this world. I couldn’t be more grateful.

I am also grateful that I got to know my aunt. We are only eight years apart yet our lives have never really intersected very much. But she and I ended up being a pretty spectacular team as we held vigil in Grandma’s hospital room and allowed each other sleep and showers. In the midst, we shared our lives and our truths. We cried, we laughed, we hugged. And on Saturday night in the final hours of the bar of the Crowne Plaza hotel, with Grandma’s favorite vodka tonic with a twist of lime, we toasted.

Back at home, I’ve spent the last few days decompressing and trying to grasp what I just experienced. I have cried a fair bit, but the majority of my tears have been more from gratitude than sadness. Gratitude for Grandma’s life, the memories, what I learned from her, the parts of her that I am just like.

I suspect more will reveal itself over time, but at this moment I know Grandma lives on in me in a handful of ways. She gave me stubbornness and independence. She gave me thick wavy hair and deep-set eyes. She gave me a reluctance to accept being told I can’t do something and a fire to prove I can. She gave me a complete disinterest in cooking and a proclivity for keeping foodstuffs way past their expiration dates. She gave me a love for travel and a desire to explore and experience. According to multiple nurses, she gave me youthful skin that belies my actual age. She gave me the complexity of being decidedly adult while also embracing being downright goofy.

I was two months old.  When Rob first saw this
photo a few years ago, he said, "So that's where you
get your eyes."

Not every family would think this an appropriate
photo op on a woman's 80th birthday.  It's one of
my favorite photos of Grandma and her menfolk.

My mom and Grandma modeling their
thrift store treasures.

Grandma was a feisty, classy lady who always had her nails done and couldn’t stand an untucked shirt. She lived in Japan and Turkey thanks to the Navy, and travelled the world thanks to boundless energy. She visited every continent, including Antarctica to see the penguins when she was 79.

Until the day she had a stroke, Grandma drove and texted and Facetimed. She did her best to understand computers and keep her Quicken files updated. She played checkers with her great grandchildren and posed for pictures with her favorites from “Dancing with the Stars.” She loved San Francisco and Dairy Queen and paused each day for ice cream the way Brits take time for tea.

Artem was reportedly quite swoon-worthy.

Grandma was only 42 when I came along. She had a husband, her own real estate business, and an almost 8-year-old daughter. She wasn’t quite ready to be a grandma; can’t say I blame her. When she was widowed without warning just eight years later, her focus became even more about work and survival. Can't say I blame her for that either.

I was 10 days old.  Note Grandma's business
attire and two purses bursting with paperwork.
No doubt a phone was ringing in the background.

Our relationship wasn’t typical; she definitely was not a textbook grandma. I remember I spent my 13th birthday in a banquet hall at an awards ceremony honoring her work as a realtor. I opened my gift from her the next day. It was an electric pencil sharpener. As much I really wanted earrings to go with my newly pierced ears, I have to admit I used that piece of practical office equipment for years.

Grandma and I finally started to get to know each other when I was in college and she invited me to join her on that trip to Istanbul to visit my aunt who was stationed near there. Other grandparents take their grandkids to Disneyland; I got to go to Turkey.

We spent the occasional holiday together or passed through town and shared a meal. We exchanged cards and letters and sometimes a phone call. She was an intensely private lady so it was hard to get close to her, yet I have a hunch I understood her better than she suspected.

I try to make it a priority to tell the people in my life how much I appreciate them. Although words would not have gone unspoken if Grandma had passed immediately from the stroke a few weeks ago, I will forever be grateful for the extra time I was given to say goodbye to her. And for those 15 minutes alone in ICU while she squeezed my hand and “talked” to me for the last time.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Dizzy from the swirling

Emotion-fueled, cathartic writing in the lonely wee hours is always a bit raw if not dangerous. This is as much a warning to me as it is to you.

It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that it’s been less than a month since my last blog posting. It feels like two lifetimes ago.

I wrote that September entry from a spectacular hotel in Lake Louise, Canada that we are unlikely to ever splurge on again. We had planned to spend two nights in rustic luxury before heading on to Banff and then training westward back to Vancouver, BC. But life started to swirl in ways I didn’t want to imagine.

Rob and I cancelled the rest of our trip, rerouted to Calgary, stopped briefly at Woodhaven for about 3 hours to reload suitcases, and were greeted at the Boise airport by my mom at an hour mostly past all of our bedtimes. It was quite a long day.

For the next week, the three of us watched my dad defy the odds and confound the doctors. He responded to medical treatment and fervent prayers with head spinning speed. He was in the hospital for less than two weeks. By all accounts, he was supposed to be in ICU longer than that, assuming he made it out alive. The fact that Dad is doing so well now is the closest I’ve ever been to witnessing a miracle.

So that’s the good news. The incredible, astounding, blessed good news. And I’m trying with all my might not to lose sight of it. Because life has been swirling at vortex speeds and I’m getting rather weary of it. I have the wadded Kleenexs to prove it.

In the 21 days since Rob and I returned home from Boise, still celebrating my dad’s survival, the following wet blankets have been thrown on the party:

  • The day after we got home, I had an oral surgery involving a bone graft, stitches, and instructions to only eat soft food until the stitches are removed. With any luck, that glorious day is tomorrow…following three very long weeks of pudding, mashed potatoes, applesauce, smoothies, ice cream, and soup. I realized today that I haven’t had any red meat or spinach in three weeks. My money’s on anemia.

  • Our boy cat has digestive issues and despite changing his food, adding water bowls, and furtively mixing laxatives into his food, he is still not a happy litter box user. Back to the vet we go.

  • My new walking shoes have proven to be the source of annoying foot pain, prompting anxiety about the return of the most unpleasant plantar fasciitis from several years ago. After 3 hours in two different shoes stores trying unsuccessfully to find replacements, I have resigned myself to wearing my old kicks and enduring the shin splints for a while longer. At this point I’d rather have achy shins than achy feet.

  • My credit card number was highjacked while we were in Canada. The thieves had quite a joy ride with it including spas, hotels on both coasts, Airbnb, and something called Stars Consulting in Nevada. Ewwww.

  • The one and only tree in our yard next to our (now unusable) hot tub is infested with an active and popular hornet’s nest that nobody can locate. Best guess is the nest is inside the tree trunk. There’s a really good chance Rob gets to play with a chainsaw when the temperatures finally drop enough to make the nest go dormant. I’m telling myself I never really liked that tree anyway.

  • A dear and beloved elderly lady from our church died. The family asked me to write her obituary. It was an honor and a privilege and sucked big time.

  • Two getaway trips that were planned in an effort to try to salvage some of that Vacation Vibe we didn’t really get had to be scrapped due to other obligations. Golly, I can’t wait to retire someday.

  • For the first time ever…and now fully embracing all that comes with having silver hair…I am the reluctant yet grateful owner of a Preparation H product. (Hey, I'm just keeping it real here. Too real? Let's just say I am reallly looking forward to being able to eat spinach again.)

  • I spent about 8 hours in the ER with a friend who was showing signs of a stroke, and another 2 hours with a friend who was getting a steroid shot for some nerve pain. I am becoming far too familiar with hospital procedures, waiting rooms, and beef broth.

  • And the capper: tonight my dad called to tell me my feisty 92-year-old grandma was being life flighted to a stroke care center in California. She was apparently talking with an electrician about a rental property (yes, she is still working as a real estate agent. It was announced at her 90th birthday party that she had renewed her license for another 5 years. Did I mention feisty?) when something terrible happened and she stopped breathing. Last conversation suggested the hemorrhaging is still not under control. Family is converging. I may or may not get those stitches out tomorrow after all.

All that and then the unfathomable tragedy in Las Vegas has me sad, weepy, overwhelmed, confused, and unable to get the sleep I so desperately need. I feel like a punching bag whose stuffing is spilling out in a mess on the floor. I’m trying so hard to be strong and present and optimistic. But instead I feel raw and numb and deflated. And so very tired.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Someday is now in Lake Louise

Well, it’s been a memorable day.

We started off the morning in a nice tour bus in Jasper, trekking southward to Lake Louise. We traveled the entire day along the Columbia Icefield Parkway. I have a t-shirt to prove it!

The Icefield Parkway is apparently one of National Geographic’s Top Ten Scenic Roadways in the world. While I could only really take in a small fraction of it, I would say I agree.

The road goes through a gorge with more of those gigantic mountains on either side. However, these mountains are a bit different in that they are sprinkled with glaciers. Glaciers that you can see without binoculars. Glaciers that you can see even through relatively dense smoke.

Yep, our Super Travel Weather Luck disappeared today. Although Jasper was rather clear, the further south we traveled, the more smoky the skies got. I had to take out my contacts because my eyes were burning, it was that bad. While it smelled kinda nice, like a wood burning fire (because, duh, it is), the whole breathing and seeing thing was sort of compromised.

Nevertheless, the mountains were still spectacular in their own way. Instead of multi-colored and multi-dimensional, the hazy white skies turned the mountains into an Ansel Adams photograph. The mountain landscape was black and white and two dimensions; no real way to sense depth through the smoke.

We stopped at a few glacial lakes, the ones that look turquoise from the “rock flour” that dribbles into them from the rocky valleys surrounding them. I was mesmerized to discover the beautiful blue still came through the heavily filtered light. Playing with all sorts of low-light, high-light, expressive, dynamic settings on my camera resulted in a few interesting shots. But for the most part, I think I will just be left with the memories of the gigantic mountainy silhouettes.

The highlight of the day – even more so because it wasn’t hugely smoky yet – was riding a snowcoach up onto a glacier and then having about 30 minutes to gingerly walk around on it. Although Rob and I have each tip toed on glaciers in other places, this is the first time we went on one together. And definitely the first time we got there riding an enormous million dollar snow tank.

The snowcoach was at times bumpy and lurchy but blessedly clung to the ice and a 32% slope with confidence. It took about 7 minutes to get onto the ice. Although there were staked ropes indicating safe areas to stick to, I was honestly amazed so many folks at least two decades my senior gave ice walking a try and did it without falling! It was indeed slick in places, and there were little puddles of melting glacier all over the place, but holding onto Rob, I never felt unsteady.

We were also told to bring empty water bottles with us so we could fill them up with fresh glacier water to sip. Rob was my hero as he straddled a small, slick gully to collect the water for us.

It was the freshest-tasting water I have ever had. It didn’t taste like anything, making it interesting to realize that all other water I drink either out of bottles or taps actually has a taste. However, as the icy cold water warmed up, it developed a rocky, minerally flavor. We didn’t quite finish our bottles because we weren’t sure we liked our beverage so…earthy. So note to self: if I ever get the opportunity to drink glacier water again, I will finish it quickly.

The second highlight of the day was seeing another bear. On the left again! This one was right along the side of the Parkway and its presence was announced by the stream of cars, campers, and motorcyclists that were stopped on the side of the road with cameras all facing the same way. This black bear was quite a bit smaller than the one we saw from the train, but it was just as happy and just as close.

What was particularly astounding, however, was how many people were standing outside just a matter of feet and yards from the bear, watching it munch a tree and taking photos of it. Our bus driver noted that the bear could jump 30 feet in a split second and be on top of any one of the unprotected selfie-takers before they had a chance to focus their phone camera and get that prized photo of their final moments. People are so interesting!

We are now tucked away in a fantastically lovely log cabin hotel on a river in Lake Louise. We haven’t seen the lake yet; partly due to the smoke and partly due to it being up some elevation from us. We aren’t sure we will see it this trip. It depends on the cab driver tomorrow morning.

We are unfortunately cutting our vacation very short as of tomorrow morning. Just before we lost cell service for the entire day, my mom was able to get through to my cell phone and share news that my dad is in the hospital ICU due to breathing difficulties. So we are heading to Calgary tomorrow – hopefully via Banff so we can at least catch a glimpse – and then onto Woodhaven for a few hours to reshuffle luggage before heading to Idaho.

It was twists and turns of life just like this that prompted us to take this trip in the first place; no guarantees that we have “someday.” We do hope to see this part of the world again, hopefully without smoke and perhaps on our own schedule with our own transportation.

I do have more I want to write and share about the train experience; we are both definitely sad we will be missing three more days of the fantastic service, food, views, and fun of the Rocky Mountaineer train that we planned to experience from Banff back to Vancouver.

Maybe “someday” will come again.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Someday is now in Jasper National Park!

Oh my goodness, so much to catch up on!

We are quite enjoying this rail travel thing but ooooh doggies, the days are long and the mornings come quickly. Not much time for blogging.

We have trained two full days (like 12 hours plus each) since Whistler and rolled to a stop in Jasper National Park in Alberta last night. It was the end of the first of three segments to our trip. Meaning we said good-bye to our lovely train hostesses Laura and Corrina (who taught us the word “ticketyboo” which we all laughed at until we realized it means the same as the equally sensical “hunky dory”). We wished travel farewells to Aussie aisle-mates Bruce and John, and we got ready to be away from the rails and settle in one spot for a bit. Changing hotels and the associated room numbers each night has brought some confused weariness.

The scenery from the train has been magnificent. We could not have asked for better weather – the skies are clear and the sun is bright. We’ve been told by a few locals that our time in their various spots has been some of the best weather they’ve had all summer. Indeed, we were just the third train in three months that has been able to make the trip we just completed. Due to wildfires that jumped the tracks and lots of resulting smoky skies, all the earlier voyages were disappointingly by bus. We are remembering to count our blessings.

Our first full day on the train two days ago started in Whistler and puttered to a long-anticipated stop in Quesnel. We were delayed about two hours due to some rail traffic and heat.

It was so warm outside (low 90s), the metal train rails ran the risk of expanding and filling in gaps in the tracks designed for this purpose. However, the expansion isn’t always even; sometimes there are little humps and sways in the tracks. So to avoid inconveniences…like derailments…train speeds were restricted. We therefore followed the Mighty Fraser River veeeeeery slowly for quite some time.

We started in the mountain, went through some deep river gorges, and climbed to the high alpine desert. The late afternoon sun lit up lovely farmy plateaus in warm gold light, and we said goodbye to the sun along ranchland. All the while eating gourmet food and sipping lovely Okanagan Valley wine. It was all rather decadent and a far cry from our more typical Wheat Thins and Wendy’s-infused road trips.

Quesnel was exactly as anticipated: a place to spend the night. I was sad, though, that we arrived too late for the town to show us what it had to offer. The people who greeted us at the dark train station and the hotel we super duper friendly and loved their little lumber hamlet with a passion. So many smiles and thank yous and waves. Our bus driver from the train station to our hotel – a route that we truly could have walked – was stretched as far as he could get away with so as to explain why he loved his job and his home and hoped that we would all come back some day and see it in the daylight.

Quesnelians are rather proud of their painted
fire hydrants around town.  I was rather
proud I got this shot in as much focus as I
did given the sleep deprivation.

Yesterday’s route was Quesnel to Jasper, crossing both the province and time zone boundaries in the process. We are now in the Mountain time zone in the lovely province of Alberta. We will be here a few more days for Segment 2 Adventures.

The scenery highlights yesterday were wildlife and Rocky Mountains. Since we left Whistler, we have seen osprey, a big horn ram and his harem, and a mama moose (reportedly with baby but I didn’t see it)…all pretty close to the chugging train. I was also pretty excited to see hundreds of bright pink sockeye salmon spawning in the river.

The salmon are the (conveniently) salmony-colored blobs.

However, the highlight sighting was yesterday when someone yelled “BEAR ON THE LEFT!!”

I happened to be sitting on the left side and saw the most beautifully healthy and stout black bear lumbering through some low grasses less than 50 feet from the train tracks! OMG!!

I’m proud to say I don’t have a photo of the beauty. Instead I chose to savor the moment instead of wasting it getting my camera to focus. But believe me when I say it was a large and happy bear, so much closer than I’ve ever seen outside of a zoo, and pretty dang awesome.

What I did take lots of photos of, though, was mountains. Soaring, immense, hunks of rock scraping the unusually cloudless blue sky. Mountains like in Alaska, where they are so enormous you can’t possibly photograph them nor truly comprehend them. That didn’t keep me from trying, however.

It's impossible to see here how gigantic these mountains are!

I have seen the American Rockies. The Canadian ones seem somehow even more extraordinarily tall even though Canada’s highest peak (Mount Robson at just shy of 13,000 feet) is shorter than several in the US.

We were told this peak of Mount Robson is usually only
visible about 30 days per year.  WOW!

Rob and I discussed this while enjoying some Merlot because, well, we had time.

We concluded the difference in my mountain height perception is a result of the concept of “relief.” Relief in geographical terms is the difference between the highest and the lowest elevations in an area. So while the US has mountains in the Rockies that are taller than 13,000 feet, I have viewed them from a higher elevation than where I’ve been hanging out on the train (currently about 3,000 feet). So these somewhat smaller Canadian mountains look bigger because I am seeing them from a lower elevation. Make sense? If not, might I recommend some Sumac Ridge Merlot to help clear things up?

We arrived in Jasper last night well after dark so we weren’t sure what we would wake up to this morning. Ummm… it is pretty gorgeous here.

The town of Jasper is unique because it is wholly within a national park. However, you wouldn’t really know it; it looks and feels like a mountainy tourist town complete with ice cream shops and tacky souvenir stands, white haired tourists with fanny packs and patchouli-scented 20-somethings with backpacks.

Jasper is surrounded by more of those immense mountains, giving it something of the feel of Jackson Hole, Wyoming but not quite so jaggedy. Elk are common residents so there are actual warning signs as well as tell-tale ones, like when a bunch of cars are pulled off to the side of the road and lots of cameras are pointed in the same direction.

My One Wildlife Photo (well, aside from the salmony blobs)

Our morning today was spent on a short tour to a lake and then a small canyon. I was honestly a little ho-hum about the idea; sleep sounded much more intriguing than an 8:50am dressed-and-ready start time in a new time zone.

But the lake proved spectacularly reflective. Our guide got us there just before a light breeze picked up making this photograph no longer possible just a half hour later.

Pyramid Mountain.  The reddish brown trees are not early Fall.
Sadly they are trees infested with mountain pine beetles.
They have been pretty destructive around here for several
years despite making for rather colorful photos. 

Next we went to a place called Malign Canyon, pronounced “mah-LEEN” even though it was aptly named for the definition of “evil in nature or effect; malevolent.” While today it was one of the most interesting and unique…and narrow…canyons I have ever seen, trying to navigate its smoothed-out rock caves and sudden waterfalls in a canoe would have been crazy-making.

We were given an hour to walk along some trails around the canyon. I couldn’t believe we were given so much time in what looked like a small park. I anticipated I would be browsing the nearby gift store for 45 minutes.

Instead, I wish we had had at least three more hours so we could have taken a much longer walk down to the bottom of the canyon. Although the canyon was narrower than a football field, it was super deep and had the most interesting rock formations.

Learning another new word today, I discovered I was seeing evidence of karst topography. Googling, that officially means “a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.” In other words, soft rocks like limestone get slowly carved away by water and result in really cool caves and waterfalls.

I was so fascinated by the curvy, swirly rock walls, I forgot that I have knee and back problems and trekked down the declining trail with my only worry being the time. We got as far as anyone on our bus did, even if I did overhear some whipper snapper not on our tour refer to me and Rob and another guy as “the old people.” I was tempted to throw my hat at him but then he would have seen my hair and been vindicated.

"Old People" rocking the Malign Canyon Trail

We made it back to the bus in time to get a geological book at the gift store and for me to tend to my injury. Yes, I should have known better than to hike down and up that canyon with such confidence. Dang fence caught my thumb and broke my nail. My back and knee, however, are doing splendidly so far. THANK YOU, SURGEONS!!

We grabbed some lunch in town. After all the fancy meals on the train, we were craving something more “normal.” We asked the shuttle driver for the best pizza place in town and had far too much fun having a Canadian Bacon pizza in Canada. Fun fact: here they call it “back bacon” which sounded really wrong and kinda gross. However, we determined it thicker and sweeter and better than the stuff we attach the nationality to in the U.S.

As either as sign of age or maturity, we decided to forego more touring today and instead decided to enjoy the rest of the afternoon relaxing, reading, blogging, and waiting for the shade to envelope the chairs outside out hotel room. Perhaps we’ll go find a nice glass of Merlot.

We continue Segment 2 tomorrow with a bus and touring southward. Stay tuned!

Lovely lake near our hotel.  What a beautifully relaxing afternoon!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Someday is now in Whistler!

Earlier this year, as and after we watched the lives of friends and family take unexpected turns, Rob and I made a decision. Seeing undeniable evidence that none of us is guaranteed “someday” or even “tomorrow,” we decided it was time to start taking those trips and having those experiences that we have long dreamed about but always figured we would get around to doing “someday.”

The first on our “Someday is Now” trip list is one that Rob has talked about pretty much as long as I’ve known him. He…as are most of the menfolk in his family…is a train guy. He loves trains and train travel. One of our first dates included a visit to a favorite train station so Rob could share with me one of his most special places.

We’ve taken several day trips on trains…some pretty long days in fact. But we’ve never done any overnight rail trips. At first because we couldn’t afford the time or the fare, and then later because sleeping and showering on a train doesn’t seem particularly back friendly.

Riding a train through Canada – especially the Canadian Rockies – has nevertheless been one of Rob’s dreams. And we are now finally doing it.

Learning a couple of years ago that there’s a rail company that lets you ride an excursion train by day and enjoy the stability, space, and king-sized, back-supportive mattress of a hotel by night was a game changer.

And so this blog entry is coming to you from the comfort of a lovely bed in a lovely hotel in the especially lovely Whistler, British Columbia. We trained here from Vancouver, BC this morning. We arrived around noon and got to spend the rest of the day and night exploring on our own. So far, it is seeming a fantastic way to travel.

We spent most of yesterday walking around Vancouver after we got situated in our hotel. We had some messy but tasty crepes at a sidewalk cafĂ© for lunch, and killed some time in a fancypants department store while their jewelry desk replaced my watch battery (yes, I still wear a watch…especially when travelling outside my cellphone’s normal coverage area. I’ve learned the hard way that cell phones aren’t always reliable international clocks.).

We happened upon a very chatty and knowledgeable Lookout Tower employee who offered to give us a historical tour as we veeeeery slowly made our way around the observation platform 553 feet above Vancouver. What was advertised as a 20-minute tour turned into more like an hour. But it was truly one of the best tours I’ve had of Vancouver, BC in my five visits there.

Bright sun backlighting makes selfies pretty tricky
Nevertheless, that's Vancouver BC behind us

After dinner, we plopped in our hotel room and actually opened the window to the noisy city street below us because in amongst the car horns and bus engines and police sirens was the most lovely serenade by a street performer.

He was a violinist with an amplifier and a dog. He stood on the corner in front of Tiffany’s jewelry store and played the violin with enough expertise, I started to suspect he actually plays for the Vancouver Symphony and just practices on street corners for kicks and extra cash. His set was over promptly at 9:00pm, unfortunately well before I had hope he and his wafting violin would help lull me to sleep.

Our train tour started this morning at the godawful hour of 6:05am. That’s when we needed to have our luggage available to be picked up. We are not morning people; we were hoping the early start would be worth it. So far, thankfully, YES!

After dodging lots of closed roads and Vancouver police getting overtime pay and keeping our eyes peeled for Ryan Reynolds as the filming of a movie called “Dead Pool 2” was being filmed on the street outside our hotel, we finally got settled into Seats 37 and 38 on the Rocky Mountaineer train. WHOO HOO, CHOO CHOO!

We're awake...sort of.

Although we’ve only spent about 4 hours on the train so far, it seems like a splendid way to travel aside from the early morning departures.

The seats are super comfy with almost as many buttons to play with as a pedicure massage chair. Except unlike a pedicure chair, the Mountaineer chair does not make my teeth rattle and make me fear my titanium spine might vibrate loose. THIS chair has adjustable lumbar support and three levels of heat and a motorized footrest. For the first time in 15+ years of lugging around my trusty and bulky lumbar travel pillow, I don’t need it. OMG!

Ooops, sorry. Chairs are quite central to one’s life when one has chronic back pain. Perhaps not everyone finds the Rocky Mountaineer Goldleaf Chair quite as monumental as I do. I’ll move on. But did I mention…O M G, heated lumbar!!!

We enjoyed a very scenic morning slowly chugging through mountains and a river gorge, past a fjord and a small mining village. The skies were clear, the sun was bright, the cameras were ever-present.

We were served mouthwatering cinnamon scones, a hearty breakfast of quiche and bacon and sausage and pancakes, and as much beverage of any sort that we desired. Can’t say I remember the last time I sipped on Chardonnay at 11am but hey, Someday is Now!

We arrived at our first station stop at about noon. I didn’t really know what to expect from Whistler, BC other than knowing it is a ski resort and was the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics for all things mountain snow sport.

What I know now is that Whistler is remarkably beautiful and even though the Olympics are long gone, there is a youthful, athletic, energetic vibe here. The vibe makes it very easy to imagine what it must have felt like when the town and the Olympic Village were bursting with competitive skiers and lugers and tobogganers.

Whistler was built for pedestrians. There are signs and walking paths and street lights and orienting maps all over the place. The buildings still feel new and are filled with shops and restaurants and specialty stores catering to bicyclists and skateboarders and hikers and skiers.

Walking around, the place felt like Disneyland without the rides. Or, rather, the rides were all up on the mountain. Even in the summer, without snow, Whistler offers mountain biking and dirt biking and white water rafting and hiking and lake swimming.

I swear I expected to see someone wearing Mouse ears

So naturally, Rob and I walked a lot, watched other people be all athletic and sportsy, and hoped to play miniature golf but got to the course too late. Boo!

We spent a good chunk of the day riding ski lifts and gondolas up to the top of Whistler Mountain, praising my coordination and strong knee to actually get on and off the lifts without requiring apologies or emergency stops.

Ski lift selfie!! I was pretty pleased with how well this
turned out considering I have zero experience taking
photos while on ski lifts

The gondola is called Peak2Peak.  It goes between the two
main mountain peak ski area in Whistler and is the longest
unsupported lift span in the world at almost 2 miles.
I chose not to dwell on this fun fact while on it.

We had lunch at the top of a ski run. The altitude made us both a little dizzy but we nevertheless essentially finished our heap of poutine (a Canadian snack we discovered in Montreal several years ago that, when done well, is sooo worth the clogged arteries: French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. OMG. Hey, don’t judge me…Someday is Now!). We purposely left one fry uneaten just so we could claim we couldn’t finish the “snack.”

I forgot to mention the beef barbacoa we opted to add on
top.  Please note the zero calorie beverage I chose to pair with
this vacation delicacy.

4.5 miles later, sweaty and slightly sunburned from exploring all of Whistler that our feet would allow, we have called it a night and are preparing for quite a long day on the train tomorrow.

We are to be down in the lobby at 6:45am (we get to sleep in!) and are heading for a town called Quesnel. I keep thinking it’s Quiznos, and then I heard a local called it Quin-nell, so I have no idea how to pronounce it, nor what to expect when we get there. Our itinerary suggests it's mostly just a place to spend the night. Which is just fine with me. WHOO HOO CHOO CHOO with HOTELS!

REALLY hard to capture the beauty in a point-n-shoot